A surprising fact is that most people believe they are good enough to go to heaven. Why? Because they feel that they are a “good person.” Do only good people go to heaven? Who really goes to heaven? How can a person know with certainty that they will go to heaven. Are there “good people” who think they are going to heaven but in reality will not be going?
Highway to Heaven?
According to a recent news poll from a major news organization, 85% of people who believe in heaven but are not necessarily Christian believe that they will go to heaven. Even more surprising is the fact that 77% of people who claim no religious affiliation feel that they are good enough to go to heaven because they feel they are a “good person.” If this is true, there is a broad 6-lane interstate highway to heaven and there be many who will find it. But what does the Bible say about who goes to heaven? Is there a broad path to heaven? Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Two key elements Jesus spoke of here are that the gate that leads to destruction is broad and not narrow and that many enter through it. This statement by Jesus seems to contradict what most people believe. Jesus said that instead of a broad path or highway to heaven, there is a narrow gate and in fact “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:14). This is in direct opposition to what most people think. The way to eternal life is narrow, the gate is small and most importantly, only a few find it — not many as most people think! This is not good news for those who feel that they are a good person or good enough to go to heaven.
Isaiah 35:8 confirms the fact that there will be a highway as the prophet says, “a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.” This highway is called the Way of Holiness. That doesn’t sound like a highway for “good persons” but for holy persons and the wicked will not be traveling it. Jesus warns everyone to “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). Here the way to enter is called a door and the doorway in narrow, not broad. Jesus even says that many will try to enter it and “will not be able to.” What is even more frightening is Jesus saying that many will come to Him expecting to go to heaven but He says, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”(Matt 7:22-23). How tragic that will be. Many will come to Him calling Him Lord but He who is your Lord is the one whom you obey. If Jesus says, “I never knew you” this means that He really didn’t know them and they didn’t know Him. They were not in His Word (the Bible), in His Body (the Church), in fellowship with Him (in prayer), and in relationship with Him (saved by His blood).
Do Good People Go to Heaven?
Of the many doors that I knock on to share the gospel with the community, most people believe that they are a good person and expect to go to heaven. I did an informal poll one Saturday as I was doing outreach in the city where our church is located and ask people, “Do you think you will go to heaven?” Around 3 out of every 4 thought that they would go to heaven. I asked them why they thought that. Their response was almost universal: “I’m a good person.” When I ask young students at the college campus one Saturday “Do you consider yourself a good person?” about 9 out of every 10 said yes. Of those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ — they are not born-again believers — most people still think they will go to heaven. It seems that most people think that they have done enough good things to go there. They confess they are not perfect but they feel that they have done more good things in their lives than bad and so they think that God being a God of love would not send them to hell. My thought was “is something missing?” Jesus Christ! The Bible says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Who is Really Good?
No human is really good. Only God is good. Listen to what the young rich ruler said when He ran up to Jesus to ask Him how he might inherit eternal life. This is the account from Mark 10:17-22, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
This young rich man asked a great question when he asked how do I inherit eternal life. People who think they are a good enough person to go to heaven might want to ask this but one thing that Jesus points out is that “No one is good except God alone.” The young rich man apparently thought he was a good person and since he kept the commandments, he felt he was good enough to go to inherit eternal life. What does Jesus tell him? That he still lacks something. That he needs to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. Jesus, knowing the young man’s heart, must have realized that riches were his god because when Jesus told him to give it all away, “the man’s face fell…and he went away sad” because he was rich; so much for trying to inherit eternal life by keeping the commandments. That didn’t work for this man nor will it for any of us. Besides, this man coveted his wealth and made it his god, thereby breaking the 1st and 10th Commandments. Jesus is not saying that we need to give everything away to the poor but He knew that the man was making a god of his money and coveting it.
None Are Good Enough
No human can inherit eternal life by doing good things, being a good person, or trying to keep the commandments. The Psalmist writes, “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3). Paul testifies that “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one“ (Rom 3:23). All means every single human being who has ever or will ever live on this earth, in fact, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” (Psalm 53:3). Matthew 15:19 agrees by saying, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Mark writes, 7:21-23: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).
Just as Jeremiah described “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:9-10). Again, Paul reiterates the state of humanity, “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10-12).
More Than Good Enough, But Holy
There is no other way to heaven except through Jesus Christ and His righteousness that is imputed to us. Only the holy will go to heaven so just being a good person will never be enough to inherit eternal life. How can a sinner be made holy? Doesn’t this seem impossible? The writer of Hebrews gives us good news by saying that, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). John writes, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:19). Thank God for there is hope for us because “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb 2:11). Ephesians 5:25-27 makes a fitting conclusion to how believers are made holy, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Being good enough is not enough…only good enough to send people to hell. To go to heaven and receive eternal life we must be holy, perfect, and blameless and have no stain, blemish or wrinkle. How is this possible? With humans it is impossible but with Christ it is absolutely possible. Christians are already made holy by Jesus Christ’s atoning work on Calvary. Won’t you place your faith and trust in the only One Who can make you holy and wholly acceptable to God and put you on the Way to Holiness? That is the only way to inherit eternal life and there is no other.
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